Even before you enter one, it’s easy to determine the basic features of an apartment: living area, kitchen space, bathroom, and a closet or two. But when an apartment includes features for disabled persons or the elderly, knowing what to expect is a challenge. Not all disability accessible apartments are the same.
The U.S. Fair Housing Act has seven basic design and construction requirements for most accessible apartments:
Your specific needs and apartment features may vary, but this list is a good start when speaking to building managers about an available unit. It’s also vague— what’s a “usable” kitchen, anyway?—so here’s a rundown of some layout specifics for disability accessible apartments to aid in your apartment search.
Hallways should be 4 feet wide, with well-secured carpet or non-slip flooring. Light switches must be at an accessible height. “Non-slip” flooring includes hardwood, some ceramic tiles, and embossed sheet vinyl.
At least one bathroom should be located on the main floor. When apartment searching, this is pretty easy to find because few apartments offer multi-story dwelling. Other features to keep an eye out for:
Kitchens shaped like an “L” or “U” enhance accessibility, but don’t consider them deal-breakers. More important are continuous counters set at the same height and level as the cooktop or stove. The corners of all counters should be rounded for safety. The sink and cooktop should have knee space beneath them.
The main living area should not have a door, but should have a wheelchair-navigable threshold. That could be a subtle ramp, a threshold limited in height to about one-quarter inch, or no threshold at all.
And since we’re talking about the entrance, it’s also worth noting there should be a light switch at the entrance to the room. All light switches—not just the one at the entrance of the living area—should be accessible from a seated position.
The room should be large enough to accommodate a bed plus 5 ft x 5 ft of space for maneuverability, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Lighting, adjustable shelves, and hanger rods in the closet also improve the apartment bedroom’s accessibility for the disabled or elderly.
Looking for a disability accessible apartment can be a stressful challenge. However, with the right amount of research and with help from online tools like ApartmentSearch, it’s possible to find the perfect disability accessible apartment.
Please note: This overview is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to serve as a representation of legally-binding accessibility features. Please contact the ADA Information Line for more detailed information.